Mental Health: Managing Millennials @ Workplace

Why are millennials under 40 becoming prey to cardiac arrests?


Shekhar from Navi Mumbai was a fit young professional who was working in one of the leading corporate houses. It was a totally normal Wednesday for him when he felt an excruciating pain in his chest that spread into his left arm. His driver rushed him to a hospital where he passed away at 40 due to a major cardiac attack. His wife couldn't believe that his iron-pumping, jogger husband passed away due to a cardiac arrest. And Shekhar is not alone. Cardiac arrests are becoming more than common among millennials.

Casey is in her early 30s. She is a happily married homemaker from Goa. But lately, she finds it hard to concentrate on any task. She is always sad and tired. Whereas her husband Lauren is trapped in the rut of WFH. He works for a start-up. He has no time for his personal life and is becoming highly irritable.

Shekhar or Casey or Lauren are not alone. The majority of millennials are experiencing the negative side of WFH and the hustle culture. The millennial workforce is getting sandwiched between the hustle culture and personal ambitions. Burnout is resulting in cardiac arrests and heart-related problems among young Indians. Mumbai has witnessed a 6-fold rise in deaths due to cardiac attacks in the first 6 months of 2021. Most of the deaths were directly related to a stressful lifestyle.

But there are still some questions that need answers.

  • Why are millennials under 40 becoming prey to cardiac arrests?
  • Why is depression becoming another pandemic?
  • Is it humanly possible to be your best at work 24*7?
  • Is it fair to regularly ask people to work beyond their duty hours?
  • Can a stressful job make you irritable and suicidal?

Mental Health Awareness Week gives motivation and awareness about the importance of mental health. It incredibly drives people to fight against mental health issues and break the societal norms about mental well-being. The efforts in Mental Health Awareness week remain for spreading awareness and helping people who didn’t have anyone in their life as a support when they needed one. Mental Awareness Week started 21 years ago, held in the UK and organized by the Mental Health Foundation which is the chief charity organization for mental health. This is a one-week event where people from all over the world come together for support and awareness on mental health.

The Hustle Bubble

Lately, the hustle bubble is losing its sheen as more and more employees are blaming it for losing the work-life balance. With the boom of start-ups, the hustle culture became a norm. The start-ups were building and selling at the same time so they were loaded with work.

Most of the employees were forced to work beyond the duty hours and even on holidays. The majority of people who work at start-ups complain of continuous pressure to perform their best. Being the best at all times is humanly impossible but these employees have but one choice, either to be best or be fired.

The Pandemic After Effects

The toxic work culture reached its peak during the pandemic. The "Work from home" trend blurred the line between personal and professional lives. Most of the professionals worked after office hours and also on weekends. This trend continued even after the pandemic was over. This resulted in complete burnout and breakdowns.

Many employees like Manjeet from Delhi decided that they had had enough and asked HR to revise the contract.

"I cannot keep getting sick because of my job. My doctor seemed more than concerned when I went to him for the 5th time in 3 months." -Manjeet.

And Manjeet is not alone, many HRs are continuously receiving requests to revise the employment agreement with "well-defined" working hours.

"It is becoming very difficult to retain the skilled staff." Says Mayuri an HR with a start-up in Kolkata. "People are more than willing to resign but are not ready to work on weekends. And I totally understand that". Mayuri is continuously stressed about hiring "backup staff" as the resignation rate is quite high.

Most of the millennials who are facing music are less than 35 years old. A huge number of women employees have already resigned due to acute "family" pressure.

And physical burnout is just one side of the coin. Many employees are struggling with mental health issues. Continuous stress to be "best" and little to no breaks are resulting in a pandemic of mental ailments. Not just in India, hustle culture is ruining mental health globally. Japan has coined the term ‘karoshi’, which means death by overwork.

Mental health is the new challenge

However, the scene is worse in India, poor mental health among the workforce costs employers nearly $14 billion per year in absenteeism, lower productivity, and attrition, according to recent research by Deloitte.

Even HR professionals are agreeing that mental health is the third biggest issue after hiring and retention of the skilled workforce. Still, many HR professionals struggle to define mental health or mental health issues.

What is Mental Health?

Lately, mental health has become a common term to describe any and every issue that may trouble the mind. But mental health is usually defined as psychological and emotional wellness that is different from physical fitness.

However, the human brain is still a mystery even to professionals. Mental health issues exhibit themselves in an array of ways. It could be a mental or emotional issue or persistent physical issue or even an off-kilter way of doing things. It is difficult to find out the causes of poor mental health. It could be hereditary or trauma or abuse.

But the pandemic has opened up more doors for those who are seeking help for their disorders. At least urban Indians are more open to seeking professional help. So, chances are greater that HR professionals from tier-1 cities will find people with mental health issues.

Role of HR in mental health issues

The primary role of HR is to manage the gaps in the organisation for smooth functioning. They must ensure that all employees are treated fairly and are comfortable at work.

To maintain a steady workforce, HR professionals manage incentives and activities to keep employees physically fit. Apart from that they are actively involved in recruiting, retaining, training, and terminating employees.

They also address the grievances of the employees. Mental health has become a chief cause of the drop in productivity and absenteeism. As a result, mental health has now become a huge part of HR services.

How to approach mental health issues?

Although mental health is the new buzzword, most HR professionals are clueless about the standard approach. For beginners, the CEOs and policymakers are making it clear that it is legally wrong to discriminate against the mentally ill in any way. No stern steps can be taken against anyone mentally ill unless there is medically backed proof that they pose a safety risk to others. Even a drop in productivity cannot be a reason for termination of employment.

The HR professionals are expected to understand the needs of the mentally challenged without any prejudice. HR must ensure total privacy and security for mental health sufferers. Any kind of maltreatment like taking away important projects or purposely shifting schedules is illegal and against the rights of equal opportunity.

The HR is expected to be empathetic and must provide them with appropriate work and break schedules, environment changes or changes in supervision. The HR policies must be inclusive of everyone. HR cannot fire an employee for depression or anxiety till they have concrete proof that the employee is unfit to work.

Mental health is not mainstream

Despite greater awareness of mental health-related issues, mental illness is still a stigma. The majority of mentally ill workers are uncomfortable admitting to their mental trouble and seeking help.

As a consequence, mental health becomes the root cause of lowered productivity, poor performance and waste of billions of dollars. So, training HR professionals in identifying and dealing with mental health issues can help companies a great deal.

Where to start?

It starts with the topmost people in a company. Many companies are now taking mental health seriously. Recently Meesho announced 10 days of leave for the employees so that they can revive their mental health. Many companies are accepting remote workers or granting remote work to many employees who are suffering from mental health issues.

HR and the workforce need to understand the laws and rights of the workers. The workforce must be diverse and inclusive. There must be training sessions for HR professionals to understand and identify mental health issues. The HR must not make the mental health sufferers feel inferior or incompetent in any way.

HR should hire or tie up with Mental Health workers, should conduct Occupational Stress test at regular intervals, invite the experts for webinars on Mental Health, Help make Mental Health as Normal so there can be unashamed conversations without fear or being Judged.

If you are looking to grow the awareness of your workforce on mental health and wellness then you can contact Dr Paras and Ekktaa from Tava-Mitram and explore our free Mental Health Certification Programs.

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